Text description provided by the architects.
At the beginning of 2010, the architecture design institute of the Inner Mongolia University of Technology decided to expand the office space, finding a new site to construct a new design building. What we were pursuing was a spiritual expression beyond physical dimension , showing the expression of space and the symbolism of the site.
From technique to method
A mature design derives from method instead of technique. Technique tends to be more personal while method acts as a deduction of logic.The architecture building is located in a corner of a commercial neighbourhood. The site was a rectangular plot measured as 40m*40m. While embedding the normal design conditions, as for finishing the basic shaping frame, the deducing process was formed as: Physical Space——Interface Form——Material & Construction.
Deduction of Physical Space：Based on spacial efficiency, the site was divided into an 8m*8m standard column grid. In order to alleviate the intension while entering the site form the streets, a courtyard was made around the corner containing an entry space. In order to introduce light and wind in to the building, we used the central lobby to separate the remaining “L” shaped plan into three equal parts. Sun test limitation of the neighbourhood to the north naturally led to the different volume heights between the northern and southern parts of the building. Public services such as stairs, elevators and toilets were set in each connection part between every one of the three volumes and the central lobby, while a bridge above the central lobby connects the three volumes.
Deduction of the interface form: The cold weather from the north shapes the elementary form of the interface, which can be concluded as “Void in the South and Solid in the North”. Windows are larger in the South and smaller in the North, showing the local construction wisdom fighting against the crucial climate.This wisdom also includes shading method by using the sun elevation in order to face the change in different seasons, and eco-strategies such as using wind-proof side walls. These local strategies formed in the history became the resources for shaping the interface form of this project. By then, the basic physical frame was done.
Deduction of material and construction: Under the premise of highlighting the reality of materials, the interface material becomes an extension of the exposed structure. Consequently, the exterior walls are made out of concrete blocks, and the interior walls were the combination of concrete blocks and customized cement plaster, and both floors and ceilings were made of concrete too.
Having the space blocks and materials designed, the next work was to consider the joints of them. The construction work is easy to carryon between rough interface and the delicate one, in the connected parts between each interface the chink was remained. For instance, between each ceiling, floor and walls, the chink was kept by using angle steel for transition, the distance between walls which possess different materials was widen. The design becomes describable by language, and the logical ingredients of the deduction was further enhanced.
From skin to expression
Design requires skills but does not show off skills. In another word, what the users should feel firstly is an expressional atmosphere of the site rather than the skills within it. Thus, the techniques on skin are supposed to be the natural marks left by architects during the process of making the goals penetrate inside the whole and parts. The over-active expression of skills shall definitely damage the space goal. Consequently, one of the goals of this project is to create a space expression. In regard to it ,we hope that staff could be calm and steady without generating impulsive minds. To fulfill it, the design is concentrating on three features:
Purity: This purity includes texture, color and continuity. Therefore, the using of concrete continued the consistence of inside space and outside space. Meanwhile, it also conveyed a calm and steady space expression.
Reality: The calm and steady expression also invokes the reality of materials using. The reality firstly acts as following the construction logic, by using concrete to combine structure and decorative materials into one. Moreover, there is no doubt that the organic integrity and permanency conveyed by the reality shall add the sense of light and shade which changes by the time, then that sense will become another critical foundation for space expression.
Appropriateness: What comes with the reality is the appropriateness. Appropriateness means that the best extent for different things to work together. Without appropriateness, reality alone will not be able to generate a space expression which should have appeared. For this case, in order to add some warm expression, under the frosty cement skin, combining with further realm differentiation, wooden skin was used in some parts.
From Quality to Symbolism
The quality of a space mainly means the satisfactory extent for human biology and behavior, whereas symbolism refers to the way to deal with the inside characteristic of human sense of belonging. The design mainly created the symbolistic traits in spiritual dimension such as origin, introversion and confidence. To fulfill the space experience, it needs to be finished in an independent specific site, thus the following three features become the premises for realizing the goal.
Separation: People can only get into silence in an independent environment to enjoy the site characteristic. Therefore the priority was to separate the project from the noisy surrounding commercial environment.The design adopted the simple shape and skin material to fulfill the goal of separation, while the setting of the side yard around the entree make it the filter of impulse and noise, finishing the separation silently.
Transition: In this project, a steel bridge was built across the inner yard: The bridge itself was overhung above the yard, and the face of the bridge was iron grid board. Meanwhile, in order to transiting the different heights, the bridge was sloping. Through the bridge, people shall gain a mental and physical experience feeling of ritual while entering the building, and the psychological distance will get longer. Certainly, effect of the bridge also includes releasing the courtyard space below it. Furthermore, the switched direction, condensed height were for the same consideration.
Belonging: The inner courtyard, not only transits the space, but also highlights the belonging. The bridge, not only adds the psychological distance, but also focuses on indicating another site on the other side of the bank. The lobby, was not only for the wind and light, but also for adding the sense of center and identity of the place. While the bridge inside the central lobby not only finished the connection but also makes the passers-by feel a sense of existing as well… Surely the yard itself plays an important role in creating the symbolism: the flowing water, warm floor, quiet light&shadow and so on, lead the users to feel an introverted atmosphere different from the environment.
The strategies above enhance the wholly sense of place, generating a specific symbolism: square shape, plain make introversion. Simpleness ,reality make origin. Opening, purity strengthens characteristic. While introversion, origin and characteristic enhanced sense of belonging, producing confidence. Hope staff inside the design building can be whelmed in a site atmosphere with specific expression and symbolism, working with confidence without impulsive mind.